French Inheritance Laws

Help please! We hope to move permanently to France later this year. I have two daughters by a previous marriage. What regime can we buy the property under that will: allow my wife to do what she likes with it if I die first; allow my daughters to eventually inherit a share of whatever's left when my wife dies, without also inheriting a huge tax bill?

To which it might be added "and my mother never complained" which is part and parcel of that inability to change.

But isn't that inability to change things one of the problems in France nowadays ? There does seem to be a general 'inflexibility' almost everywhere it seems. The attitude "it was good for my dad and his dad" et al so it must still be ok now...

A useful way to transfer money from spouse to spouse without touching 'blood' relatives in the event of either party passing away can be the Assurance Vie. The contract will ask for a beneficiary (not obligatory ) in the event of death and 'the conjoint' for example can be stated as can the Dogs Home or Joe Bloggs etc. as possible beneficiaries.

Even our notaire, a woman, made faces about what we did. She is of the impression the changes are unnecessary and have worked since the 19 century perfectly well so don't change them. We said that we found it paternalistic and outmoded whereupon she went into a diatribe about it, which she got back in the form of my OH telling her how Swiss women only got political rights in 1959 and it was 1971 before they could vote in federal elections, however they have worked on it and have full rights the same as men, including inheritance laws, that France is a rights backwater for women. I just smiled watching the notaire squirm. In fact, she is a nice woman and did exactly what we wanted but should not have added an opinion.

Thanks to everybody who has taken the time to add to this discussion started by my husband using my picture, in case some of you got confused. Talking to French friends whilst there at Easter, it is amazing that even the most modern, independent women think the inheritance law is OK, even though it is a throwback to a paternalistic society that really should not exist anymore! But then again, we did not get the right of vote until 1945 in France... This is waking up the feminist in me! I do not wish to disinherit my step-daughters, but neither do I wish to just enjoy the usufruit of what should be entirely mine if my husband dies first. The other thing French friends have told us though, is that if I die first, my heirs are actually my blood family, not my husband! I never thought going back home would get so complicated! We clearly need to make sure that things are water-tight when we move.

The Notaire will give you the best advice based on your personal situation. All families have different requirements so he or she will try to find the best deal for you.

My point exactly, but you put it more clearly.

yes I meant to type usufruit, Brian, typo again...!

yes you will be able to choose which legal system the will falls under but not where you pay inheritance taxes, if you live in France you pay in France even if the inheritance is dealt with under english law.

The taxes, where there are any to pay, would be here if one is resident in France. Our notaire said that there is any dispute by heirs/putative heirs that is also subject to the laws of the country in which the claim is made. That is exactly why we had to do something about my son.

My notaire registered our English wills last year saying that this year we will be able to choose which way we go, that remind me I wonder if I have to go back to confirm what we want?

That is not what my notaire has told me. He confirmed we can chose either the French inheritance laws OR the laws of inheritance of our birth country and make a will accordingly. Of course you will still pay taxes on what you own in France .....

Except that everything you have and own in France that falls under French law is still as it was. The way the new laws are phrased is about as clear as mud until you really go into it with the finest tooth comb.

Thank you -we'll ask the notaire about wills.

you are correct Dominique......

Is this due to be passed in law, do you know?

I think that by the 15 August 2015 one can chose what inheritance system one wants to obey. French or your own country.

I think you mean 'usufruct' but anyway that is right. For obvious reasons she has the house and all else of any importance in her name but I still have some things such as author's copyrights and so on that I am compelled to keep until they have to pass on. However, we sorted it so that if anything happened to her, I would have the house, etc, until they could pass on to our children. Thereafter it gets complicated but let's say you can have somebody excluded but need to give good reason or else, as Andrew says, the state can override your will. I fortunately have something that enables that exclusion.

Brian's already said it - speak to your notaire. A tontine could be what you want or an agreement where the remaining partner has usifruit of the property so not forced to sell to pay off children. Grosso modo the state, not you, decides who gets what as far as percentages of an estate are concerned so expert advice is vital ;-)

We went to a notaire to help us both make wills that cover all of the kind of questions you are asking. She guided us through the whole business because I am just about two decades older than my wife, but have had health problems that should make it pretty certain I go first. Then again, there is always the proverbial truck that hits her car or the unexpected fatal illness. I also have a son who has as little as possible to do with me and has loadsa money, but could turn up and claim inheritance from under our daughters' noses. So we have made it as watertight as possible. There is no exact regime I can describe but getting the right will sorted out and then the thing lodged with the notaire is important.